Repairing memory loss due to sleep deprivation

Published: 21 October 2009

Scientists from the Universities of Glasgow and Pennsylvania believe a new treatment will combat the adverse effects of insufficient sleep.

Millions of people regularly obtain insufficient sleep due to their social situation, ageing or because of neurological and psychiatric disorders. One of the major effects of sleep deprivation on the brain is to disrupt learning and memory processes, which then compromises the way we live and work.

In a report published this week in the prestigious publication Nature, scientists at the Universities of Glasgow and Pennsylvania describe their novel discoveries that memory problems caused by short periods of sleep deprivation can be corrected by treatment with small molecules that specifically inhibit an enzyme called PDE4.

Interestingly, a number of Pharmaceutical companies have been developing PDE4 inhibitors to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and these have reached late stage clinical trials. Providing that the side effect of sickness seen in some patients treated with these inhibitors can be overcome, work from the Glasgow and Philadelphia groups indicates that these PDE4 inhibitors could provide a novel therapy for treating memory problems associated with sleep loss.

Professor Miles Houslay of the University of Glasgow, who led the research, said: "People suffer sleep loss not only from disease but also jet lag, looking after young babies, getting old and through types of lifestyle. This can have adverse effects on the way you think, the speed at which you react and your ability to remember things. This discovery offers hope for a simple and effective treatment.”

Dr George Baillie of the University of Glasgow said: “Millions of people around the world suffer from a lack of sleep and this research opens the door for effective treatment of the memory loss associated with this debilitating condition."

Further information:

Martin Shannon, Senior Media Relations Officer
University of Glasgow Tel: 0141 330 8593

Professor Miles Houslay
University of Glasgow Tel: 0141 330 5903

First published: 21 October 2009

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